How to win the war for tech talent

A benchmark for employers to position themselves to beat the global tech talent crunch

Software engineer at work

The war for tech and digital talent is relentless right now. Digital transformation strategies are being implemented globally across every sector. Locally, financial services firms are aggressively designing and developing disruptive products and services to retain and win new customers through pioneering customer experiences. They’re competing with digital-first fintech and insurtech start-ups that are agile, innovative and quick to market. Competition is rife and financial services is not the only sector reimagining its future. These and so many other digital initiatives have resulted in an unprecedented number of tech roles not being filled across software engineering and development, data, cloud and artificial intelligence (AI).

All employers, regardless of size and sector, are competing fiercely for the same pool of tech and digital skills, which is dwindling daily due to the growing number of South Africans with in-demand skills recruited by global tech giants. According to Google’s Africa Developer report, four out of 10 African developers now work for at least one company based outside the continent. As a result, countless South African employers are missing an opportunity to attract these scarce digital skills, which is, in turn, compromising their competitiveness.

Fact: here’s how to attract and retain top tech talent  

The job placement information we’ve gathered at Mindworx, based on working over 150 tech jobs since the beginning of 2022 (and more than 6,500 over the past 20 years) makes it clear that there are specific strategies employers should employ right now to win the talent they want.

Because candidates are spoilt for choice, they’re looking at more than just the job—or the salary—on offer. Employers must focus their attention on the candidate experience during the hiring and onboarding process. When dealing with high-potential talent, employers need to create frictionless talent acquisition processes and abandon lengthy hiring practices and misaligned assessments. These processes—often deemed tedious by candidates—are most commonly cited as the reason they lose interest in an opportunity.

Employees want opportunities that stimulate and challenge them and positively impact the organisation, its customers, and the community. Hence, employers need to ensure their available work does just this and intentionally market it as such.

Similarly, digital talent actively seeks out organisations that offer the ability for team members to expand their skills and expose them to diverse career paths. Learning organisations will be better positioned to win high-demand talent. And while I think it goes without saying, it’s important to reiterate that the flexibility to work remotely is almost non-negotiable now; employers must remember that geography should no longer inhibit employment.

Think about talent differently

There’s another element to addressing the tech talent crisis that employers should be thinking about: growing the talent pool.

Because new technologies are evolving, digital roles are changing quickly too, and new jobs are created all the time. From our experience, employers winning the race for talent are hiring for potential and not just current ability or qualifications alone.

We’re recommending to our clients that they look beyond their non-negotiable set of technical skills and broaden their search to focus on candidates’ aptitude and attitude instead of just their current capabilities. Doing so opens up a considerably more extensive pool of talent, especially amongst younger potential candidates. Remember that many of the existing in-demand tech skills can be taught—relatively quickly and online, through micro-courses—and that someone with some tech know-how can quite easily pick up more. So it comes back to organisations offering learning opportunities.

But what about beating the budget?

The simple rules of supply and demand dictate that scarce skills will come at a cost. Therefore, employers successfully attracting available tech talent are choosing candidates with fewer years of experience but who show potential to be trained. This is a far more sustainable approach to containing recruitment budgets.

Clever organisations are building talent pipelines by employing more high-potential early-career tech talent more often, with the correct view to consistently upskill them for the roles that will emerge over time.

There’s no question that the digital skills gap and demand for talent are unlikely to slow down. The answer to this is for employers to be creative in how they attract, retain and continue to re-train the talent they need for their ongoing digital transformation—and success.

This article was published in IT-Online

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